PYSA ransomware gang attacks educational organizations with ChaChi malware

Golang-based RAT used to steal data before encryption

Security researchers have revealed the PYSA ransomware gang has started using a Golang-based Trojan (RAT) called ChaChi as part of a new campaign against educational organizations.

According to the BlackBerry Threat Research and Intelligence SPEAR Team, The PYSA crime gang developed the ChaChi malware, which is named after two key components of the RAT, Chashell and Chisel.

Researchers estimate the hackers developed ChaChi no earlier than mid-2019, but they believe its development likely occurred near the beginning of 2020.

Hackers used the earliest variant of this malware in attacks on French government authorities’ networks in March of 2020. Since then, researchers have observed it in attacks on health care organizations, private companies, and educational establishments. Recent PYSA ransomware attacks have targeted higher education and K-12 schools across 12 states and in the UK. 

“After initial sightings in attacks during the first quarter of 2020, ChaChi’s code was altered to include obfuscation and persistence in late March or early April. Very soon after that, we started seeing ChaChi variants with the added DNS tunnelling and Port-Forwarding/Proxy functionality. There have been few noteworthy changes after that point,” researchers said.

In addition to installing ChaChi, the latest PYSA campaign uses PowerShell scripts to uninstall/stop/disable antivirus and other essential services.

Researchers said that by using Golang to develop ChaChi, PYSA ransomware operators can frustrate detection and prevention efforts by analysts and tools unfamiliar with the language.

Related Resource

The definitive guide to IT security

Protecting your MSP and your customers

The definitive guide to IT security for MSPs - whitepaper from LiongardDownload now

“The earliest version of ChaChi lacked several features of more mature malware, but its rapid evolution and recent deployment against national governments, healthcare organizations, and educational institutions indicates this malware is being actively developed and improved,” said researchers.

Researchers added that the malware is a “powerful tool” in the hands of malicious actors who are targeting industries notoriously susceptible to cyber attacks.

“It has demonstrated itself as a capable threat, and its use by PYSA ransomware operatives is a cause for concern, especially at a time when ransomware is experiencing alarming success through a string of high-profile attacks including campaigns conducted by REvilAvaddon and DarkSide,” said researchers.

Researchers warned that organizations ignoring this threat do so at their own risk, especially in a year of one-after-another cyber security disasters.

Featured Resources

B2B under quarantine

Key B2C e-commerce features B2B need to adopt to survive

Download now

The top three IT pains of the new reality and how to solve them

Driving more resiliency with unified operations and service management

Download now

The five essentials from your endpoint security partner

Empower your MSP business to operate efficiently

Download now

How fashion retailers are redesigning their digital future

Fashion retail guide

Download now

Recommended

How to use machine learning and AI in cyber security
Security

How to use machine learning and AI in cyber security

30 Jul 2021
Chipotle’s marketing email hacked to send phishing emails
phishing

Chipotle’s marketing email hacked to send phishing emails

29 Jul 2021
The top 12 password-cracking techniques used by hackers
Security

The top 12 password-cracking techniques used by hackers

29 Jul 2021
Colonial Pipeline hack spurred copycat attacks on other oil and gas companies
hacking

Colonial Pipeline hack spurred copycat attacks on other oil and gas companies

29 Jul 2021

Most Popular

The benefits of workload optimisation
Sponsored

The benefits of workload optimisation

16 Jul 2021
RMIT to be first Australian university to implement AWS supercomputing facility
high-performance computing (HPC)

RMIT to be first Australian university to implement AWS supercomputing facility

28 Jul 2021
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G review: A rose-tinted experience
Mobile Phones

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G review: A rose-tinted experience

14 Jul 2021